Local Spotlight on Meals: Red Rock Subs

EVERETT, Washington, May 24, 2022 – Red Rock Subs is a much-loved sub shop off Broadway in Everett. Having been in business for nearly 20 years, Red Rock has stood the test of time despite being in an area that critics don’t like. The store’s longevity can be attributed to its commitment to providing quality ingredients and attention to customers and employees.

Success despite the naysayers

Elaine Kwak opened the shop in 2002. An article from Everett Business Journal, published the same year, covered Kwak’s new business and details her commitment to making healthy, fresh sandwiches.

“We’ll stay within our cost margins, but we’ll use better foods,” she told the newspaper, explaining how she planned to spend less on plastic and paper items and more on exceptional ingredients — like choosing green leaf lettuce instead of the cheaper iceberg.

Elaine’s enthusiasm did not disappoint those who were rejecting at the time and who speculated that Red Rock would not be successful because of the location. The newspaper described the area as a “bad belly” full of deportees and loitering.

“We’re going to be 20 in November,” says Red Rock general manager Dion Kanyakala. “So I think she definitely beat the odds there, the people who said she couldn’t make it.”

In addition to being in business for two decades, Red Rock Subs have won numerous awards over the years, winning LiveInEverett’s Best Sandwich Shop in Everett Award In 2017, the Everett Herald’s Best Sandwich Shop Award in 2018 and 2019.

Small family oriented company

When chatting with Kaneaiakala, who has worked at Red Rock for eight years, it is clear that the shop has a special place in her heart. “Eileen has given me a chance to work when no one else is,” she said.

Eight years later, Kaneaiakala is still with Red Rock as she loves being part of the family oriented business. She says, “This is a family owned business, and so it was very beneficial for the family to be a part of my family and to really work with me. So I stay for the family.”

Tragically, Elaine Kwak died of cancer in February 2021, just a month before the global pandemic broke out.

Red Rock bears the tragedy and survives the epidemic

Amid the loss of the original owner and faced with an unprecedented challenge for small businesses, Kanyakala joins forces with daughter Eileen and nephew to ensure the shop can continue.

“[Red Rock] It was her child,” Kanyakala says. “There were a lot of standards that she had regarding the quality of the food. “Some of those we were concerned about were because of the lack of food and product,” she said, describing the struggles Red Rock has faced during the pandemic. “he was there [shortage] Everywhere – even based on customers.”

Red Rock Subs employees with new owner, Vivian Kwak (center left), and general manager Dionne Kaneaiakala (center right). | Bo Prosecco

Matthew, the nephew of Kanyakala and Elaine, has seen a sudden drop in business with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. They even asked each other, “How are we going to survive this?”

So I said, ‘We’ll do this. “I reached out to the community, I reached out to two radio stations, I reached out to two newspapers, and he put us online — and he made sure we were working online,” she recalls.

The main goal of the Kaneaiakala outreach was to let the public know that Red Rock Subs are still open for business.

“The community is definitely back. We had a lot of catering requests. We might not have had the same amount of business coming through the doors, but we did serve out a lot of the hospitals in the area — you know, ’cause the frontline people are still there, and they still are. hungry,” she says.

“It was really great that they supported us. Our regular customers were glad we didn’t shut down.”

Not only has Red Rock Subs weather the pandemic, but this week they are beginning to extend their hours, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m.

Elaine’s sister-in-law, Vivian Kwak, became the new owner of Red Rock in March of this year and believes Elaine will be thrilled with the success of the current store. “She’d be proud,” says Vivian. “I believed in certain things, like good ingredients, and we’re keeping up with their level.”

the food

Sub roasting pan

Also known as the “original,” the Pot Roast Sub is the store’s most popular menu item. Of course, putting a roasting pan, grilled onions, cheese, cheddar, and garlic mayonnaise between breads sounds good in theory, but Red Rock really pulls it off thanks to its delicious mayonnaise and unbeatable roasting recipe. The ratio of stuffing to bread is well balanced in this sub as well, and the bread kept its structure well and didn’t get soggy – definitely worth a try.

Sub roasting pan (“original”) with peanut butter cake.

California Club

This branch gets turkey, swiss, avocado, garlic, mayonnaise, Dijon, tomatoes, and when they have them, sprouts. I’m used to California-style dressing with plain mayonnaise or even ranch ranch, so I was happily surprised by the garlic mayonnaise collection, Dijon Combo. It was a fresh take but stayed true to its name. And with very fresh ingredients, like crisp green lettuce and tomatoes, this is the perfect summer sandwich, in my opinion.

California club with chocolate chip cookies

Cookies: a piece of chocolate and a cup of peanut butter

I am a huge fan of cookies and therefore have high cookie standards. I can tell you that the red rock cakes are top notch. The peanut butter cup cookie (shown next to the sub roasting pan) is absolutely delicious, but the texture of the chocolate bar (a favorite of Kaneaiakala, seen next to the California club) was amazing. Normally, with larger cookies, they run the risk of getting too dry, but the Chocolate Chunk cookie was just damp and was just the right color for a chocolate chip cookie.


Overall, Red Rock Subs is a small shop with a big bite. Whatever critics say about the area, the friendly staff and good sandwiches make it an enjoyable experience. If I had to rate this shop, I’d give them a “must try, worth the drive, surprise sandwich!” Award.

Red Rock Subs are located at 3514 Broadway, Everett, WA 98201. You can follow them on Facebook @redrocksubs and Instagram @redrocksubs. To view the list online, click here.

Do you have a favorite grub spot in Snohomish County? Let us know where to go for your next local spotlight segment by emailing Bo at [email protected].

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